Nov 302016

Nowadays bankers are held in low esteem – hardly a day goes by without stories of their dubious morality. So, why don’t we just hang them? After all, we used to… the last crooked banker to meet his maker this way was Henry Fauntleroy, who went to the gallows for forgery (the last man to do so for that offence) on 30th November 1824 aged 40.





Henry Fauntleroy, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.


Fauntleroy was the son of a Dorset bank clerk who helped form a private bank in London (at Berners Street in Marylebone) by the name of Marsh, Sibbald, & Co in 1782. At other times the Bank was known as Marsh, Stracey, Fauntleroy and Graham. The twenty-year old Henry joined the bank as a clerk, and took over the position of senior partner when his father died. The other partners took very little part in the running of the Bank and appear to have abandoned the young Fauntleroy without proper supervision. The Bank had agreed loans to a number of builder clients. By the very nature of their business the builders needed finance all the way through the building programme – withdrawing backing at any stage would mean a calamity for the bank as well as for the builder. So, when expenses rose and debts became overwhelming, Fauntleroy took to using client funds to shore up the business. The bank’s indebtedness stood at £60,000. By 1815 he was forging powers of attorney enabling him to sell stocks and securities lodged by clients with the Bank. In his papers he was quite thorough in recording these deals, and when he was eventually brought to trial these records, in his own writing, made any denial impossible.

One report states: “So Henry Fauntleroy threw honesty to the winds and adopted the expedient of forgery, which at that time was punishable at the hands of the hangman. Among the clients of the Berners Street bank were innumerable holders of Consols, long and short annuities, Navy loans and other Government securities. Fauntleroy had a list of their stocks and was familiar with all their signatures. In every case the device was successful. The defrauded proprietor was never allowed to discover the theft. Forgery was used to cover forgery, until eventually nearly £400,000 worth of Government stock had been appropriated”.

Fauntleroy kept his activities covered by continuing to meet the dividends due to the owners of the stock, but eventually the enterprise collapsed like a pack of cards.

He was by all accounts a solemn person who exuded respectability and trust: he is described as being “a tall man and used to wear white trousers, white waistcoat and black coat.” Oddly, he believed that he bore a striking resemblance to Napoleon, and he aspired to be regarded by the world at large as a Napoleon of commerce. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in 1821 Fauntleroy bought “a sumptuous Grecian villa at Brighton and erected a billiard room in the form of Napoleon’s travelling tent.”

Apparently in 1809 he was compelled to marry a woman with whom he had an affair and got pregnant: the girl’s brother demanded a duel, and Fauntleroy was obliged to marry the lady in order to save face. They did not live together, and by some accounts this enabled Fauntleroy to go off and have affairs with various ladies of ill-repute, most interestingly a woman known as Mrs Bang a.k.a. Mother Bang a.k.a. Mary Kent, Mary Berners and various other noms de plume. “Bang” was both a description of her activities and  the fact that she was “bang on” fashion.

The papers later sensationalised the stories about Fauntleroy and Mrs Bang, painting him as totally debauched and immoral. One paper described the arrangement as follows:

A female, of as much personal attraction as possible, was selected by a set of men then about town, who being themselves mined by the same means, both in fortune and in fame, were ready to become the willing instruments of ruin to others. This gang all pulled one way, and having got hold of a handsome and interesting woman, they established her in an elegant and splendidly furnished mansion in some fashionable street at the west end of the town. This woman, nominally the owner of the mansion, was hawked about, dressed in the most fascinating and gay attire to the Italian Opera, the theatre, and all other places of public fashionable resort where she had her male accomplices scattered about, offering their friendly services to all their young and inexperienced acquaintances, often men of fortune and of family, to introduce them to the great object of general admiration–Mrs. Such-a one. The introduction took place-the lady put forth all her powers of attraction-a fascinating invitation was given to the new aspirant for her favours, to join a supper-party, at her house that night; after the entertainment cards were introduced-something trifling was commenced with, the wine went round ; the ladies soon dropped off one by one from the table -a proposal was made to play for a few dozen of Champagne, to make a present to the lovely and hospitable hostess, the pigeon was most generally suffered to win this first and some following trifling stakes, to give-him confidence. Dice (false ones) now took the place of cards ; play became deeper and deeper, until the wine vanished, and the poor dupe of all this villainy was fleeced of every shilling he had about him, and then entered into securities, his own bills…

The Hecate of these infernal courts, for several years, was Mrs. Bertram, better known by the domestic name of “Mother Bang,” because she was ” bang up” to all the arts and intrigues of her calling. Mr. Fauntleroy unfortunately fell in with some of the destructive women above described, and amongst the rest this said Mother Bang. In this way, we understand, he has dissipated enormous sums, besides loans of a large amount, to fellows about town, whom he met at those places, and whose words he took to pay him when they would, and that was never.

By some accounts Fauntleroy and Mrs Bang went their separate ways when Fauntleroy seduced a young schoolgirl and set her up in a home in London. She allegedly bore him two children.

Fauntleroy was to deny these charges totally in Court. Indeed he seemed far more concerned at refuting the allegation of immorality than to defend himself against the charge of forgery.

On 14th September 1824 the Bank had announced that it was closing for business and Fauntleroy had been charged with “uttering a forged document knowing it to be forged.”  After a trial lasting less than five hours the jury returned a verdict of guilty and on 2 November 1824 the recorder pronounced the sentence of death.

Two appeals were made on points of law ; seventeen merchant bankers volunteered to give references as to his moral character and past dealings, but Robert Peel, the Home Secretary, saw no reason for leniency and on 30th November Fauntleroy was led from his cell in Newgate, paraded in front of a crowd estimated at 100,000 people, and was hanged. Mind you that was only after a curious claim by a mad Italian called Edmund Angelini who demanded to take his place on the scaffold….

The presses churned out broadsheets like the one shown, eager to display his picture and last words. There were even coins over-stamped, as this Cartwheel Penny, with the words “Fauntleroy the Robber of Widows and Orphans, Executed at Newgate, such be the Fate of the Insolvent Bilking Bankers and Agents”

The centuries roll by, and some might argue we still havent found a more effective way of making sure that bankers toe the line…

Nov 252016

I came across this caricature dated 1827 on the website for Albion Prints. It was sold some time ago, and although I could have used the version on the British Museum site I prefer this one because it has been coloured more delicately.


It is called “A Fishing Party – What great enjoyments rise ‘from trivial things’…”. and features the grossly overweight and somewhat immobile King George IV being man-handled via a rather splendid ‘Royal Baby Walker’ by  a very fat Lady Conyngham and by the King’s private secretary Sir William Knighton. Lady C, the King’s mistress at the time, pulls him along by using the royal sceptre as a tow-bar.

The contraption runs on little wheels and the King carries his fishing rod in the direction of Virginia Waters (shown on the finger board in the background). Knighton pushes the contraption, and in his pocket carries a petition in support of unborn babies – and a clyster pipe. The King’s hat is marked as being “a la Townsend” and at his side is a giant reticule, marked “fish bag”. The King carries a book marked “Old Izac” – a reference to Isaac Walton and his definitive guide to fishing, the Compleat Angler.

Please note that the king’s fishing rod has accidentally caught up in the clothing covering the voluminous backside of Lady C. She is clearly feeling the strain of pulling the Royal Personage.  She wears a huge ribbon-trimmed bonnet and a  dress displaying  bare shoulders, and she sings “Rule Britannia” to which Knighton responds “Send him Victorious”.

The caricature encapsulates perfectly the derision felt towards the King – he was loathed by just about everybody – because of his wastefulness and extravagant spending, because of his hypocrisy with regards to the late Queen Caroline, because of his womanising and low morals. People were fed up with him. They were living through hard economic times while he continued his lavish spending at Brighton and on Buckingham Palace. Mind you, it was quite a brave thing to show the King as being grossly overweight – the writer Leigh Hunt had been sent to prison for seditious libel for writing a poem in which the king was compared to a fat blubbery whale.

Elizabeth, Marchioness Conyngham, was an English courtier and noblewoman  and was the last mistress of George IV. Dorothea Lieven, wife of the Russian Ambassador in London at the time, described her as having ” not an idea in her head…not a word to say for herself … nothing but a hand to accept pearls and diamonds, and an enormous balcony to wear them on.” Certainly she was renowned for the size of her “balcony” as well as for the enormity of her posterior. She was also considered vulgar and ‘common’. She made sure that her whole family benefitted from her control over the King, ensuring that her husband was made up to marquess, and installed as a Privy Counsellor, while her son received advancement and later became Lord Chancellor in the reign of William IV.

As for Knighton, yes he “pushed and pulled” King George around, but largely to good effect, and he was responsible for bringing some semblance of control to the royal finances by the end of the King’s reign.

I haven’t come across the walking frame on wheels before. It is rather grand, with two of the supports being modelled out of Buddha-like mandarin emperors. The King’s legs are huge – affected by gout and rotten circulation. No wonder he rarely ventured out, if it hurt so much and if he was always greeted with derision.

Interestingly the King died three years  after the print came out. As the Times reported on that occasion: “There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king”.

Good old William Heath: he is a somewhat under-rated caricaturist. He only lived to the age of 46, having been born in 1794. In his early days he mostly drew military-themed images but turned to more general satire after 1820. He sometimes used the pseudonym ‘Paul Pry’. I have featured two of his works before under the heading “The March of Intellect” – here and here. His works have an immense amount of detail in them, and can be great fun!




Nov 202016

1759 thanksgiving

A week after the naval victory over the French at Quiberon Bay, Richard noted the “Day of General Thanksgiving, observed for the great and plentiful harvest, and the train of successes the Lord has been pleased this year to give us over our Enemies in Europe, Asia, Affrica and America”. The Battle of Quiberon Bay was the icing on the cake, rounding off the ‘annus mirabilis’ which saw British forces triumph around the world.

File:Quibcardinaux2.jpg                Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum.  ‘The Battle of Quiberon Bay’ by Nicholas Pocock, painted in 1812.

Quiberon Bay is situated off the French coast near St Nazaire. The English fleet under Sir Edward Hawke had been attempting to bottle up the French navy in Brest harbour so as to stop any possible invasion plan; a vicious storm had developed, forcing the bulk of the English fleet to run for cover in the Channel, but enough ships remained to see the French attempt to break the blockade under cover of the storm. The English with 24 ships of the line, re-grouped and chased the French into Quiberon Bay, notorious for its shallows and rocky passages. In the teeth  of the gale Hawke’s ships cornered the French under the command of Marshal de Conflans. After a battle which lasted for hours in the storm-lashed bay, the English captured, or forced aground, six of the French ships of the line.


Battle of Quiberon Bay, the Day after. Richard Wright, 1760.

Marshal de Conflan’s flagship, the mighty Soleil Royal, was driven onto the shallows, and torched.  Two and a half thousand experienced French sailors were killed or captured. Although a number of large French ships escaped, they were but a shadow of the original force, and posed little threat to the British navies for the rest of the Seven Years War. The battle was a turning point in the balance of sea power, and so when news of the victory reached London, the Day of Thanksgiving was announced. The clergy took to their pulpits in droves to praise the Lord for helping us trounce our enemies, and Horace Walpole remarked that “our bells are worn threadbare with ringing for victories”.

For Richard and the rest of the population it was apparent that the very real threat of invasion by the French was completely finished – it must have been a huge relief. After years of demoralizing news the country had triumphed over the French in every theatre of war. With hindsight it can be said that 1759 marked the occasion when the British Empire eclipsed the French one. And Richard was able to sit down with a sharp pair of scissors, spectacles perched on the end of his nose, and cut out a piece of paper to show the might of Britsh Armed Forces.

Nov 152016

15th November marks the 278th anniversary of the birth of Sir Frederick William Herschel, or, to give him his original Germanic name, Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel.

He is one of my favourite characters of the century because he showed what ‘the ordinary guy’ could do simply by being observant. He did what no-one had done for thousands of years before him – he discovered a planet (later called Uranus) and in so doing set the whole science of astronomy on its head. The discovery doubled the size of the known solar system. He discovered that Saturn has two moons. He was the first to notice infra-red radiation. Not content with that he personally designed, made, and put up the world’s biggest telescope in his back garden – you don’t do that in our era because you would need a budget larger than Greece’s national debt to do so! Oh and he catalogued around 2400 new stars (which he called nebulae), and if that didn’t fill his nights sufficiently, he also composed a couple of dozen symphonies, a number of oboe concertos and a harpsichord sonata …

He had originally come to Britain as a 19 year old, following in the footsteps of the royal family and their entourages who had drifted across the Channel from Hanover to set up camp here in the mid 1700’s. He was an oboist in the Hanover Military Band and took a job in Bath teaching music and as resident organist at the Octagon Chapel. He was made Bath’s Director of Public Concerts and in 1780 was made Director of the Bath orchestra. Somehow that didn’t fill enough hours and he was apparently spending up to 16 hours a day on his hobby, polishing his reflective mirrors and looking at the stars…

In this work he was aided by his sister, the diminutive Caroline Herschel about whom I blogged some time ago. In March 1781 he identified the new planet which he called ‘Georgium Sidum’ (literally, George’s Star) even though he knew it to be a planet rather than a star, but it shows the lengths he was prepared to go to in order to flatter his monarch. It worked, in the sense that George III made Herschel his personal astronomer (as opposed to the Astronomer Royal) and awarded him a pension of £200 for life, which enabled him to give up teaching and concentrate all his efforts on observing the universe.

In 1782 he and his sister moved to Datchet, moving on to Slough three years later. He was busy selling his polished mirrors to other astronomers throughout Europe, and building his own telescopes (he made some 400 during his life-time) The largest of all these ‘scopes was a forty foot monster which he constructed in his garden (no planning controls in those days!)…

Herschel's 20-foot telescope

Herschel’s garden  telescope

Herschel was the first person to work out that the solar system was moving through space, that the Milky Way was disc-shaped, and comparatively recent re-reading of his note books suggest that he actually noticed the rings around Uranus (many years before it was otherwise established).

He coined the word ‘asteroid’ to describe moons and minor planets. He also observed sunspots on the surface of the sun, speculating that this was evidence of life there (indeed he took it for granted that all the phenomena he observed featured their own life forms).

He was knighted in 1816.

He helped found the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820 and lived long enough to hand over the baton of astronomical discoveries to his son John.I am including a picture of John because quite simply, apart from Sir Patrick Moore I cannot think of anyone who looks more like a brilliant astronomer!

Who needs a comb to search the universe?

John was also the first person to photograph onto glass – this being a picture of his father’s  telescope at Slough, taken in 1836 (original in Science Museum).

File:Herschel first picture on glass 1839.jpg
[RAS Postage Stamp]  Postage stamp from 1970 (Herschel’s telescope in background).

William died in 1822 and is buried at St Laurence’s Church, Upton near where he lived in Slough. His home in Bath, where he first discovered Uranus is now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy (19 New King Street). This tiny but fascinating museum is looked after by the Bath Preservation Trust. It is also home to the William Herschel Society

The William Herschel Museum   The William Herschel Museum

Nov 142016

I was delighted to hear the news that my new book “In bed with the Georgians – Sex, Scandal & Satire” has finally hit the streets. Many thanks to Pen & Sword for all their hard work… mike-with-book-sss   Just by way of background: why write another book about Georgian sex workers and the sex trade?  Because I wanted to show how the Georgians viewed prostitution, not how we look back at it from a distance of two centuries. I feel that we are incredibly hypocritical nowadays. As a “for instance”: if a woman sleeps around she is a tart, a slut, a slapper. If a man sleeps around he is a lothario, a stud or a rake – adjectives with a positive connotation. Think of the words which describe a prostitute – nearly all of them have a pejorative meaning. OK, we nowadays have “sex worker” but that sounds a tad anodyne and politically correct for the 18th Century – as well as being anachronistic. “Strumpet” is a bit too biblical and theatrical – but all the others – whore, harlot, and so on, have an underlying attitude of criticism. But why? At least in the 18th Century they received respect for what they did. Sure, they would not be admitted to the homes of the aristocratic lovers they entertained, but on their own turf they were regarded with respect – almost awe. They lived in the demi-monde – a sort of parallel universe – and some of them were incredibly rich and influential. In particular, they were looked up to by many. After all, if you were a milliner working in a hat shop, serving a well-dressed lady who was calling in for a fitting on her new chapeau, wouldn’t you be tempted to follow her example if you realized that she earned her money in a high-class seraglio, and that perhaps a mere six months earlier she was serving behind the same counter as you now occupy? In the Georgian era, for many the sex trade was the only way out of a life of hardship and grinding poverty. Denied education, barred from employment other than in domestic service or “the needle trades”  young girls had little alternative but to prostitute themselves – and who are we to blame them?

Fanny Murray

Fanny Murray

In the Eighteenth Century the hookers were occupying the pinnacle of fashion. They wanted to show their success by the way they dressed – which was why the Madam started off by bedecking them in fine silks, and loads of bling, all lent on IOUs at an exorbitant rate. But it meant that the prostitute was able to sell herself to the wealthiest in the land. To succeed, she would dress well, have the latest carriage drawn by matching steeds, flaunting her success with liveried man-servants and so on, as well as spending a fortune on hot-house flowers, the latest fashions, diamonds and pearls. They were the fashion icons of the day – what the leading courtesans wore one day, the President of the Royal Academy would paint the next, and the High Street shops would stock the day afterwards. They were hugely influential – the equivalent in terms of fame and influence to the TV reality stars of today. But whereas our modern-day fashionistas of the popular press seem determined to dress like hookers, in the 18th Century the hookers were determined to dress like fashionistas. Indeed when you look at the majority of pictures of women in the 18th Century the best way of deciding which ones were the whores was to ask the question: is she overdressed for the occasion? If so, the chances are that she was standing out for a reason: to attract custom.

Nelly O'Brien

Nelly O’Brien

One of the things I enjoyed most about writing the book was choosing the illustrations – and there are over seventy. I wanted to show how caricaturists and artists portrayed the “Toasts of the Town” – and clearly if you were Sir Joshua Reynolds you must have been very happy in their company, because some were painted by him on more than half a dozen occasions. I wanted to show how “indiscretions” were reported – and to consider how a few of the “flash mollishers” ascended to the absolute pinnacle of fashion. The successful ones married their earls, their baronets and their viscounts – just as the unsuccessful ones succumbed to disease and an early demise. I wanted to show how Gillray, Newton and Cruikshank commented on their antics – plus a bit of gratuitous vulgarity from Rowlandson thrown in for good measure! Some may be surprised by the dedication in the book: to dollymops in general and to DollyMopp in particular. A dolly mop (one “p”) was a Victorian word for a prostitute. Dolly Mopp (with two “p”s) is a lovely, articulate and well-educated woman who lives in London and is proud of her chosen profession – as a latter-day courtesan. She shares an interest in 18th Century history, and in the role of the sex worker in society, and I must say I found it fascinating to talk to her about her lifestyle, its business aspects, its  pitfalls and its  benefits. I cannot pretend that she divested me of all my prejudices, but I did find it helpful, having met her over coffee in a Southwark hostelry, to think when writing: would you say this if Dolly was in the room? Hopefully, insulting comments like “common whore” have been ditched. Misunderstandings about life choices have been recognized – and hopefully, judgmental comments about people and their chosen jobs eliminated. After all, when I was a lawyer I hated being pigeon-holed as a solicitor – I didn’t want to be defined by my job. So why should Dolly be defined by hers? She is a fascinating and intelligent woman who just happens to spend some of her time – not all – entertaining clients in a way which is mutually satisfying to both parties. In that sense she is a throw-back to the 18th Century females who stride across the pages of the book “In bed with Georgians” – proud, successful – and happy! So, to Dolly Mopp – a sincere thanks for your guidance and for putting up with my ignorance about what it is like now, and was like then, to be a courtesan/whore/strumpet/prostitute or sex worker. For those interested, my book is available here. And you can follow Dolly Mopp on Twitter via @Dollymopp ! in-bed-etc

Nov 092016

Tuesday 9th November 1779 – Richard Hall noted “Saw the Lord Mayor’s Show by water. Wet in morn’g. Was fine at the time of the show, afternoon fair, not cold.”


London had a mayor way back in the reign of King John, although there wasn’t a ‘Lord Mayor’ until the fifteenth century. The first mayors were appointed but in recognition of the support given by the good burghers of the City, the monarch granted them the privilege of electing their mayor – but on one condition: once a year the mayor had to present himself at Westminster to pledge allegiance to the Crown. And so it was that the new mayor, with his retinue of supporters from the various Livery Companies, made his way upriver from the City to Westminster. And for nearly 800 years each mayor has done the same, with a few breaks for the odd war or civil insurrection.

Nowadays the Lord Mayor is met by the Lord Chief Justice rather than by the monarch in person*, but for centuries it has been a pageant, with much finery on display, with tableaux and floats (indeed the name ‘float’ originated form the elaborate displays which were brought up-river on decorated barges).

Some time in the fifteenth century the Lord Mayor , then a draper called John Norman, decided to make at least part of the journey by boat, and the livery companies vied with each other for grand barges to accompany the procession. It became the ‘done thing’ to view proceedings from the water – hence Richard’s reference to it in his diary. It would have been a grand spectacle, with music, singing and great displays. No wonder Canaletto, on one of his visits to the City, painted a couple of views of the pageant, viewed from the Thames.

The Thames and the City, Canaletto

File:Canaletto Westminster Bridge 1746.jpg

London Westminster Bridge From The North On Lord Mayors Day

Just twenty or so years before Richard’s diary entry a decision was made to use a formal carriage to enable the Lord Mayor to make the journey in style. An earlier mayor had fallen from his horse when being barracked by a woman variously described as a flower seller and a fishwife. Maybe she was both, but it was a serious case of lèse-majesté and a coach was accordingly ordered to be made. It cost over a thousand pounds to be built in 1757 – and each of the aldermen had to cough up some sixty pounds (nearly £5000 in today’s money). It is a wonderful sight, with its side panels decorated by the Italian painter Cipriani.lord-m

In Richard’s day all the apprentices would have been given the day off to follow the procession and to see the tableaux and wonder at the sheer glitter of it all. London was indeed a city of huge wealth, just as much as it was a place of grinding poverty.

Historically the show was held on 29 October each year but when the calendar changed  in 1752 it moved on by the ‘missing’ 11 days to 9th November. Since 1959 it has been moved to the second Saturday in November, and hence this year will be on 12 November.


*My thanks to Tracey Hill for pointing out that the monarch did not personally receive the Lord Mayor – this was done on his behalf by the Barons of the Exchequer.

Nov 072016





It is always an exciting time when the first reviews come out – especially as I won’t actually see a copy of my new book until I return to the UK on Thursday. I can’t wait!

I was delighted to see this comment:

“In Bed With The Georgians is a thoroughly delicious compendium of succulent titbits and shocking revelations about our fruity forebears. The action – and boy, is there a lot of
action – is, necessarily, centred around the pleasure pits of central London, specifically the fulcrum of Georgian London’s burgeoning sex trade that was Covent Garden. As such, In Bed With the Georgians is something of a social history of London in microcosm, which only adds to its appeal. It’s all a great deal of smutty fun, of course, but what I found particularly pleasing about Rendell’s lively work was that unlike many other books on the subject, the true, often tragic facts are not shied away from. Rendell gives a voice to the women – and men – whom the sexual mores of the era worked against; the sad lot of women, for example, is laid devastatingly bare. The reader finds themselves far more shocked by the suffering meted out to wives, homosexuals and those who did not toe the double-standard riddled moralistic line than by the sexploits of Regency rakes and Covent Garden molls. A dark flipside indeed.

Both a dip-inable encylopaedia of sauce and a comprehensive history of what made our ancestors tick, In Bed With The Georgians takes us from the gutters of St Giles to the bedrooms of palaces on its sweeping journey through eighteenth century society – both high and low. If heaving bosoms, lecherous lords and dastardly deeds are your thing, you really do need to partake in this fizzing, accessible and thoroughly enjoyable romp.”

Another reviewer wrote:

“This is a fascinating read. It has a comprehensive list of well known figures of the time and biographical information about them and their sexual interactions in society. It also has terms that were popular in that time. Some of them I had to read a few times just to make sure I was reading it right. When I think of the Georgian Britain, Architecture is the first thing to pop in my head and the last thing I think of is their torrid sex lives. I think more people would read history if it encompassed the entire human experience, which of course would include their sex lives.”

And finally:

“Oh Georgians! What a bawdy, naughty bunch it turns out you were. Before the prudishness and censure of the Victorian age, the English were fun, in an adventurously promiscuous sort of way. In Bed with Georgians is all about that, the brothels, the whores, the pimps, the cheaters, the lovers, the seducers, the rapists, the polygamists (and all the hilarious euphemisms of the time for the aforementioned terms) populate the pages of a well researched and terrifically amusing book. With great humour and a sort of bemused affection for its lovely and distinctly unlovely subjects, Rendell navigates the era so well, it makes for a terrific tour of a bygone age. There are a lot of individual accounts and plenty of art from the time… and it was just a lot of fun to read. From famous to infamous, some names recognizable today, most lost to history, but apparently not forgotten, because of their ludicrous and wild love lives these Georgians are definitely worth reading about if only to enlighten oneself to a sexual and social zeitgeist of a historical epoch. Very entertaining read. Recommended”

These, and several other very positive reviews, can all be seen in full on Goodreads, together with details of the reviewers (just in case, like my Dear Daughter, you assume that I made them all up!). If you want to get your hands on a copy for Christmas, hurry along to the publishers (Pen & Sword Books, here) and get yourself a copy at a discount of 20%! Mind you, I never have understood the book trade: twenty per cent off what? Whatever, I hope that you find it a rollicking good read! I will be taking my copy along on the Good Ship “Boudicca” when she sails off to the Cape Verde Islands in a fortnight’s time – and indeed the contents will feature in at least two of the lectures I will be giving on board. Roll-on “Royal Shenanigans of the 18th Century” and “From Courtesans to Celebrities – the tarts with hearts”!




Nov 022016

lwlA nice caricature by Thomas Rowlandson, first published in 1807 and entitled ‘The double disaster or new cure for love’. It is a reminder that whereas my ancestor Richard only did a “big” laundry four or five times a year (or, as he described in in his diaries, “Wash’d a great Wash”) the  process of laundry involved many of the household servants. Firewood needed to be collected, and lit under the copper cauldron using a candle. Water had to be pumped into the copper, and baskets would be used to collect the clean bed-linen and clothing to carry it outdoors – where as likely as not it would be spread out on the hedging to dry.

In this particular wash-day hiatus, a young lad has been hiding under the wooden lid of the copper. He emerges as the heat spreads into his hidey-hole, only for him to be deluged with water spouting from the pump. On the left the young woman is startled by his sudden appearance, and stops filling her jug with beer, which continues to flow from the barrel onto the floor. A cat pursues a mouse, and the washing is in a small pile in a tub, above a wicker basket and yoke.

The scene takes me back – I once bought an unrestored 18th century house without electricity or running water, and it still had the original copper, the working pump, and the flag-stone floor to the washroom. What it didn’t have was the  two Rowlandson strereotypes – the ugly old crone, shown here on her hands and knees, and the smiling fresh-faced young maids in their mob-caps. They certainly bring the scene to life.

Post-script: it is funny how often I find more than one caricature with a similar theme. Having prepared this post I came across an interesting caricature from 1816 entitled “How are you off for soap?” The print was by William Elmes, published by Thomas Tegg, and appears courtesy of the British Museum. Their commentary on the print is: “A young woman stands over a wash-tub raising her hands in astonishment to see a little man standing waist-deep in the soapsuds, saying with a smile: “here am I!! Betty!! how are you off for Soap.” She answers: “Lord!! Mr Vansittart!!—who could have thought of seeing You in the Washing Tub.” She wears a mob-cap and pattens. Two tubs stand on a bench, with a basket beside it on which lies a pair of breeches. Through a window (right) are seen clothes on a line, and trees. A fire burns under a large copper (left) from which rise clouds of steam. Against the wall are coal-box, shovel, and broom.”

How are you off for soap. © British Museum.

How are you off for soap?  © British Museum.

The print satirises the sly introduction of a tax on hard soap – sly because it was ostensibly made to protect the whale fishing industry, but in reality was a device to raise £150,000 in excise duty. The man responsible fro the tax was Nicolas Vansittart (1766-1851), 1st Baron Bexley, a long serving and effective, although unpopular Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I see that I have previously blogged on washdays, washing machines and other matters of a laundry nature, so if you want more suds, go here.