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Archive for the ‘lifestyle’ Category

Fern hunting

I’ve written a lot about ferns in the past and even reviewed a very ferny book, so these tidbits are a nice addition to all the fernery on this blog. These are again from A Room with a View, also known as “the book that illustrates my blogposts”. Nice.

Miss Bartlett gave a kind of wriggle, and he prepared for a discussion. He had never fathomed Miss Bartlett. As he had put it to himself in Florence, ‘she might yet reveal depths of strangeness, if not of meaning.’ But she was so unsympathetic that she must be reliable. He assumed that much, and he had no hesitation in discussing Lucy with her. Minnie was fortunately collecting ferns.

[…]

And, Miss Bartlett not favouring the scheme, they walked up the hill in a silence which was only broken by the rector naming some fern.

I thought this was very interesting, for a book published in 1908, to still be so concerned with ferns and fern collecting. It truly goes to show how big the fern craze was in the 19th century.

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If a book about a Little Lord Fauntleroy and his little velvet suits is to sweet for your taste, how about a book about opium and homelessness? In Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) Thomas de Quincey tells the tale of his laudanum addiction, the way opium is taken, the way it works upon the mind and body, and how he finally managed to get clean again.
The book is supposed to be a cautionary tale, because telling of the joys of drugs was not something the Victorian Era agreed to. The book is split in parts, for example The Pleasures of Opium and The Pains of Opium. I think the part about the pleasures is a beautiful and enjoyable read, and the part about the pains is mostly quite boring, but you might feel differently.

You can read the e-text here. (And if you like to see some opium use in a movie, watch From Hell with Johnny Depp, it’s a most excellent movie!)

Unrelatedly, if you’re looking for affordable books on various topics, have a look here. I think these books would make excellent gifts to history-lovers!

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Recently I stumbled upon this interesting article about the changes in dinner time. Here are some excerpts about dinner times in the eighteenth and nineteenth century:

Capitalism, colonialism, and then the industrial revolution were changing the world’s economy. People had more money, and in the cities at least, more goods were available, including candles and lamps. People began staying up later with the better lighting, and many of them didn’t have to get up so early in the morning anymore. There was also more to do at night.
Artificial lighting allowed for later mealtimes. In Fritz Syberg’s Supper, a working-class family sits down to a meal of porridge with the clock in the background reading 8:25.

With these late hours for entertainment and parties, and with more artificial lighting, many people in the cities began going to bed later and rising later in the morning. Mealtimes were pushed back as a result. In London, by the 1730s and 40s, the upper class nobles and gentry were dining at three or four in the afternoon, and by 1770 their dinner hour in London was four or five.

In the 1790s the upper class was rising from bed around ten a.m. or noon, and then eating breakfast at an hour when their grandparents had eaten dinner. They then went for “morning walks” in the afternoon and greeted each other with “Good morning” until they ate their dinner at perhaps five or six p.m. Then it was “afternoon” until evening came with supper, sometime between nine p.m. and two a.m.! The rich, famous and fashionable did not go to bed until dawn. With their wealth and social standing, they were able to change the day to suit themselves. The hours they kept differentiated them from the middle and lower classes as surely as did their clothes, servants and mansions.

By 1800 the dinner hour had been moved to six or seven. For early risers this meant a very long wait until dinner. Even those who arose at ten a.m. or noon had a wait of anywhere from six to nine hours. Ladies, tired of the wait, had established luncheon as a regular meal, not an occasional one, by about 1810. It was a light meal, of dainty sandwiches and cakes, held at noon or one or even later, but always between breakfast and dinner. And it was definitely a ladies’ meal; when the Prince of Wales established a habit of lunching with ladies, he was ridiculed for his effeminate ways, as well as his large appetite. Real men didn’t do lunch, at least not until the Victorian era.

Since the middle classes were still eating dinner in midday for the most part, they had no room for luncheon in their day. In the late 1700s and the 1800s, that began to change with the development of factories and then trains and streetcars. People began to work further from home, and the midday meal had to become something light, just whatever they could carry to work. The main meal, still usually called dinner, was pushed to the evening hours after work, when they could get home for a full meal.

Indoor gas or oil lighting came to many homes in the 1800s. It was getting easier and easier to stay up in the evening. By the 1840s dinner had been pushed back to as late as eight or nine for the wealthy, People once again grew hungry in the long interval that was now eight hours between new lunch and late dinner. And women once again led the way in mealtime inventiveness. Tea with biscuits and pastries had been popular since the 1700s as a refreshment to serve visitors. Now ladies began taking tea and snacks of light sandwiches and cakes around four or five in the afternoon, regardless of whether or not they had visitors. At first they had this snack in relative privacy, in their boudoir or private sitting room. But by the 1840s they had established afternoon tea as a regular meal in drawing rooms and parlors all over Britain.

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Last week I told about the book I read, in which Prince Pückler-Muskau tells about his travels abroad. Here are some more bits from the book.

Prince Pückler attends a breakfast at the Duke of Devonshire’s at Chiswick. It begins at three, and last until past midnight. The brother in law of Napoleon was there. There was a big chaos of coaches driving up, a cabriolet was crushed and many coaches were damaged, because everyone wanted to get as close to the house as possible. The Duke brags that the dessert alone had cost him a hundred pounds. At two o’clock he leaves for the Duke of Northumberland’s, where a small party of about a 1000 people will take place.

Description of a concert: “The rooms were choke-full, and several young men lay on the carpet at the feet of their ladies, with their heads against cushions of sofas on which their fair ones were seated. This Turkish fashion is really very delightful: and I wonder extremely that C— did not introduce it in Berlin.” [C— is the English ambassador in Berlin]

He is surpised at the press freedom: the “Great Captain” who wants to re-enter parliament is called ‘a spoiled child of fortune’ in the newspaper. In Germany, censorship was introduced in the 1820s by Klemens von Metternich.
He receives 5 to 6 invitations a day for social gatherings, and goes out quite a lot.
When he is going horsebackriding with some ladies in the countryside, air balloons are seen. I didn’t know air balloons were used (except by scientists and adventurers) that early!

Prince Pückler also shares with us some information on the dandy. “An elegant [a dandy] requires per week: 20 shirts, 24 pocket handkerchiefs, 9-10 pairs of summer trowsers, 30 neckhandkerchiefs (unless he wears black ones). 12 waistcoats, stockings à discretion.
He dresses 3 to 4 times a day: a breakfast toilette: a chintz dressing gown and Turkish slippers. A morning riding dress: frock coat, boots and spurs. A dinner dress: dress coat and shoes. Then a ball dress: ‘pumps,’ which means shoes as thin as paper.”

I hope you enjoyed Prince Pücklers adventures in England! I’ll go back soon and write down some more.

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Recently I have been reading the book Tour in Germany, Holland and England in the years 1826, 1827 & 1828, with remarks on the manners and customs of the inhabitants, and anecdotes of distinguished public characters. In a series of letters / By a German prince by Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Pückler-Muskau, in a translation by Sarah Austin, London, 1832.
The book is a collection of letters by Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871), written to his love Julia. I wasn’t allowed to take the book from the libary, or make copies, so I transcribed some parts of it, because it’s quite amazing.

“This evening, a splendid fête at Lord H—-‘s closed the Easter festivities. Most fashionable people now make another short stay in the country, and in a fortnight hence the season proper begins. I am going bach to Brighton for a few days, but shall wait for the Lord Mayor’s dinner.

[april 16th] This took place today in Guildhall; and now that I have recovered from the fatique, I am extremely glad I went. It lasted full six hours, and six hundred people were present.” There were two bands of music, tabled in parallel setting, and toasts of a national character (which he dissaproved of, being German). The ladies were “frightfully dressed and with a tournure to match.” At 12 the ball began, but the Prince was too tired from dining for six hours in uniform, that he drove home in a hurry and went to bed.

I have some more fragments from the book, which I will post next week!

If you’re interested in Prince Pückler’s work, you can read an interesting article on his influence on American landscape gardening, in this PDF.

If you’re interested in travel literature (it was quite a fad!) you can find a list here.

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I wanted to write this out but fashion-era’s site is very comprehensible. So here are three links which will show you how hair was worn during the nineteenth century!

1800-1840

1840-1870

1870-1899

A site with many articles on everything hat-related:

Victorian Hats

“Wearing every article of the same colour is fashionable only on condition the strictest uniformity of tone is maintained. “There is nothing more distressing than seeing a dress of deep blue, inclining to purple, with a bonnet with sky-blue ribbons.”

Beauty advice from a 1863 Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine.

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Unrelated: Catherine Sherman posted a review on a book which seems very interesting: Kate Summerscale’s “The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.” you can read the review here. The book is a detective novel, set in 1860. It’s definitely on my to-read list! (On Amazon)

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Something I found on the Decayed Lace blog, which features some interesting writing and trivia:

[D]ear reader, let me kindly introduce you to the wonders of the so-called ANTIMACASSAR.
In order to fully grasp what’s to be understood by the concept of an antimacassar, one has to undertake a voyage back into the 19th Century- a voyage into the curious world of Victorian fashion and cosmetics, to be accurate!
As the devoted connoisseur of Yesteryear knows, it was the style in these days for a Gentleman to wear his hair in a carefully clipped coiffure [often in combination with sideburns, which were a token fashion item of the era] that was combed back rigorously and, in order to make it appear sleek and glossy, trickled with macassar oil. Thus, one could say macassar oil was the precursor of brillantine, which reached the height of its popularity during the rambunctious days of the Jazz Age. Today, the prospect of oily hair might appear to us as an outlandish fad, but back in the dear Golden Age gentlemen sporting an elaborately brillantined haircut were the pinnacle of elegance!
To the mistress of the Victorian household however, the lubricious
headdress usually was a mere nuisance- grease spots all over the backrest of your sofa! Therefore, the canny Lady would pin pretty white doilies on the spot of the furniture where the Gentleman’s head would be. These doilies -as you might have guessed by now, dear reader- were called antimacassar, pragmatically named after the principal purpose they had to serve.
[Considering the fact that Victorian Gentlemen also used other, rather revolting substances like beef suet or bear’s grease to control their hair, macassar oil might not have been that bad after all.]

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