WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Devil’s Books

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Devil’s Books

Behold the power of a deck of cards.

Kick Up at the Hazard Table by Thomas Rowlandson, 1787-90, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kick Up at the Hazard Table by Thomas Rowlandson, 1787-90, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Able to render seemingly rational men and women utterly senseless, willing to wager unholy amounts of money on the next turn of the card. Which makes it quite fitting that these powerful, albeit inanimate, objects have been known by the names “the devil’s picture books,” “the devil’s bible,” and this week’s cant phrase. And as periodic caricatures tell the stories, much mischief is afoot in the company of cards.

Devil’s Books (noun)

Cards.

The Family Party or Prince Bladduds Man Traps!! by Isaac Cruikshank (1764-1811).

The Family Party or Prince Bladduds Man Traps!! by Isaac Cruikshank (1799), British Museum. The Prince of Wales stands with his hand on the breast of Honor Dutton while his younger brother Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, flirts opposite.

The Snug Party’s Exit. Or the Farewell to Bath by J. Brown of Bath (probably a pseudonym for George Cruikshank), May 6, 1799, British Museum

The Snug Party’s Exit. Or the Farewell to Bath by J. Brown of Bath, May 6, 1799, British Museum

Lady Godina's rout; - or - Peeping-Tom spying out Pope-Joan, by James Gillray, 1796, National Portrait Gallery.

Lady Godina’s rout; – or – Peeping-Tom spying out Pope-Joan, by James Gillray, 1796, National Portrait Gallery. The Lady is holding the nine of diamonds, the “Pope” of the game.

Sir Joseph Mawbey, 1st Bt -- A pig in a poke. Whist, whist, by James Gillray, 1788, National Portrait Gallery

Sir Joseph Mawbey, 1st Bt — A pig in a poke. Whist, whist, by James Gillray, 1788, National Portrait Gallery

The Loss of the Faro Bank -- or The Rook's Pigeon'd, by James Gillray, 1797, National Portrait Gallery.

The Loss of the Faro Bank — or The Rook’s Pigeon’d, by James Gillray, 1797, National Portrait Gallery.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lickspittle

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lickspittle

Brown noser.
Kiss up.
Teacher’s pet.
Yes man.
Flunky.
Suck up.

Whatever their name, everyone can spot a sycophant a mile away.

Alfrid Lickspittle, Councillor to the Master of Lake Town.

Lickspittle (noun)

A parasite, or talebearer. Also lick-spittle, “sycophant, abject toady, one who will do any repulsive thing,” 1741, from lick + spittle. Phrase “lick the spittle” as a repulsive act is from 1640s. A person who behaves obsequiously to those in power.

Grima Wormtongue, chief advisor to King Théoden of Rohan as well as spy of Saruman.

Grima Wormtongue, chief advisor to King Théoden of Rohan as well as spy of Saruman.

I couldn’t decide who fit the term best: Alfrid Lickspittle of two installments of The Hobbit (The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies), or Grima Wormtongue of two episodes of The Lord of the Rings (The Two Towers and The Return of the King).

Choose for yourselves.

My money is on Wormtongue. Although I loved the sheer silliness and irredeemable character of his scenes, Alfrid’s part in the Hobbit movies was a bit too Jar Jar Binks for me.

 

Slang term definitions taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, the Online Etymological Dictionary, and Oxford Dictionaries.

WOW ~ Of Independence and Upstart Colonials

WOW ~ Of Independence and Upstart Colonials

For most modern-day Americans, Independence Day is less about remembering the winning of freedom from England and more about celebrating grilled food and hot summer days, and shooting fireworks in the backyard. Those of us who remember our American History lessons can speak of no taxation without representation, preparing a harbor for high tea, and the shot heard ’round the world.

independence philadelphia newspaper

Without seeming unpatriotic, what of the British perspective?

I’ve seen the 18th Century separation of England from its North American colonies blamed on the lack of decisive resolution of the Seven Year’s War, or simply thought of as another front in the War Against Napoleon. Most of my English friends never even studied it in school, other than the rare mention of it in passing as it affected exploration or foreign trade. Most know more about the American Civil War (or as it’s known in the south, The War of Northern Aggression), and even consider this a Civil War of British citizen versus British Citizen.

But it did make the news.

Page 1, Issue 11690, 6 August 1776, London Gazette, The Gazette.

Page 1, Issue 11690, 6 August 1776, London Gazette, The Gazette.

Well, maybe not much news. If you squint and search you’ll find, buried in the second column and second paragraph, the single solemn sentence, remarkable in its brevity:

the part

An eloquent, if verbose, pamphlet was written by Josiah Tucker, D.D. Dean of Gloucester, and reprinted in part in The Leicester and Nottingham Journal on 20 January 1776. He presented both sides of the arguments of war, but with the purpose of making “people truly sensible of the blessings they enjoy under the reign of his present majesty.”

pamphlet

Dean Tucker’s conclusion, as excerpted in The Leicester and Nottingham Journal:

excerpt

By far, most information came to England via personal correspondence. Initially, letters were full of calm assurance of victory and thinly veiled disdain for people that were – at this point – English, fellow countrymen. As the conflict progressed, and success moved farther from their grasp, letters home changed drastically in tone and information.

“When an American falls, England feels it. Is there no way of trading back this step of Independency, and opening the door to a full discussion?” Admiral Richard Howe to his secretary, Henry Strachey, September 1776.

“Killing seems to me a very unnatural trade, but these people are beyond nature as well as reason. They might at this moment have peace and happiness, but they insist upon having their brains knocked out first.” Henry Strachey, secretary to General William Howe and Admiral Richard Howe, in a letter to his wife after the British won the Battle of Long Island in August 1776.

Henry Strachey also observed some colonists leaving hearth and home “to follow the standard of rebellion at the hazard of all they are worth, rather than acknowledge George for their king. The infatuation is inscrutable. I have read somewhere, and I begin to think it possible, that a whole country as well as an individual may be struck with lunacy.”

“[what] pernicious designs of those, who, giving a loose to their own immoderate notions of liberty, have by misrepresentation and perversion of facts, so long and so fatally blinded the eyes of a deluded multitude, and by the means of violence and threats compelled them to break out into rebellion, in search of a redress of grievances which never existed.” Lord George Germain, secretary of the colonies.

yorktown is won

missing you since 1776

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cat’s Paw

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cat’s Paw

I love the mental image this week’s word phrase evokes. We can all picture the literal meaning of the phrase and, upon reading its definition, easily picture its double meaning.

Cat’s Paw (noun)

To be made a cat’s paw of; to be made a tool or instrument to accomplish the purpose of another. An allusion to the story of a monkey, who made use of a cat’s paw to scratch a roasted chesnut [sic] out of the fire.

In the caricature The Cat’s Paw, below, artist HB Doyle intimated that Frenchman Tallyrand was wily enough to outwit the English Lord Palmerston. Unfortunately, Palmerston both wrote and spoke French fluently, so he was not easy mark. Tallyrand complained, “C’est un homme qui n’a pas le talent du raisonnement.” Palmerston would not engage him in argument.

The Cat's Paw (Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Benevento; Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston) by John HB Doyle, 1832, National Portrait Gallery, London.

The Cat’s Paw (Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Benevento; Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston) by John HB Doyle, 1832, National Portrait Gallery, London.

The parliamentary elections of 1784 were the culmination of a year of political maneuverings between King George III and Charles James Fox. To force a very entertaining and information-filled year into a nutshell, the King choreographed the ousting of Fox as Prime Minister so he could appoint William Pitt the Younger. Fox and his allies, chiefly Lord North, cried foul and declared the constitution had been violated. Fox and North were unable to stir up enough support for their cause; in fact, each new petition or motion they introduced only succeeded in driving their defenders underground or to the opposition. What resulted was a nationwide campaign between the old Fox/North coalition and the new King/Pitt government. On local levels, songs and poems were published as each side celebrated success or suffered defeat in the crusade. The following poem about Charles Fox addresses whom is to be the cat’s paw in this round of the game of politics.

A poem about Charles Fox and his role in the Elections 1784, from History of the Westminster Elections by Lovers of Truth and Justice. Price Ten Shillings and Sixpence!

A poem about Charles Fox and his role in the Elections 1784, from History of the Westminster Elections by Lovers of Truth and Justice. Price Ten Shillings and Sixpence!

James Gillray used a child’s toy as cat’s paw, illustrating how little it took and how easily it was to distract the Prince Regent. In this instance, famed actor Richard Sheridan uses a bandelure (or yo-yo) to play cat’s paw whilst he romances Mrs. Fitzherbert. The caption reads:

————“thus sits the Dupe, content!
Pleases himself with Toys, thinks Heav’n secure,
Depends on Woman’s smiles, & thinks the Man
His Soul is wrap’d in, can be nought but true;
Fond Fool, arouse! shake off thy childish Dream,
Behold Love’s falshood, Friendships perjur’d troth;
Nor sit & sleep, for all around the World,
Thy shame is known, while thou alone art blind –

Bandelures by James Gillray, 1791, British Museum.

Bandelures by James Gillray, 1791, British Museum.

Though I’m far more familiar with Robert Cruikshank the artist, author Robert Cruikshank, in his novel James Hatfield and the Beauty of Buttermere: a story of modern times, writes about employing the subterfuge of the cat’s paw for highly nefarious reasons: to the death!

James Hatfield and the Beauty of Buttermere: a story of modern times by Robert Cruikshank, 1841

James Hatfield and the Beauty of Buttermere: a story of modern times by Robert Cruikshank, 1841

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Daddy

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Daddy

Although relatively young in the pantheon of official American observances, Father’s Day has been long maligned as a “made-up” holiday. Well … it is, and aren’t they all? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I think we can safely allow the third Sunday of June to be dedicated solely to honoring fathers without missing out on honoring everything and everyone else that needs an accolade. After all, the rest of this week will see World Music Day (21st), Onion Rings Day (22nd), Public Service Day (23rd), Pralines Day (24th), Strawberry Parfait Day (25th), and Canoe Day (26th).

To borrow and skewer a phrase from another ridiculously disputed holiday: it’s okay to say Happy Father’s Day. Even using Georgian slang and portraiture.

Daddy (noun)

Father. Old daddy; a familiar address to an old man.

The Baillie Family c.1784 by Thomas Gainsborough, Tate Museum. I love the expression on this father's face!

The Baillie Family c.1784 by Thomas Gainsborough, Tate Museum. I love the expression on this father’s face!

Jonkheer Gijsbert Carel Rutger Reinier van Brienen van Ramerus with his wife Geertruijd Elisabeth de Graeff and their four eldest children by Adriaan de Lelie, 1804, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Jonkheer Gijsbert Carel Rutger Reinier van Brienen van Ramerus with his wife Geertruijd Elisabeth de Graeff and their four eldest children by Adriaan de Lelie, 1804, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck with his Wife and Children by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, between1801-1802, Rijksmuseum Amseterdam

Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck with his Wife and Children by Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, between1801-1802, Rijksmuseum Amseterdam

The Bridges Family by John Constable, 1804, Tate Museum

The Bridges Family by John Constable, 1804, Tate Museum

The Family of Sir William Young by Johann Zoffany, about 1787-1769, Walker Art Gallery

The Family of Sir William Young by Johann Zoffany, about 1787-1769, Walker Art Gallery

Thomas Tyndall with Wife and Children by Thomas Beach (1738-1806), University of Bristol

Thomas Tyndall with Wife and Children by Thomas Beach (1738-1806), University of Bristol

Portrait d'une Famille, Jean-Baptiste Isabay (1767-1855), J Veysset collection

Portrait d’une Famille, Jean-Baptiste Isabay (1767-1855), J Veysset collection

 

This week’s timely slang found in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Frigate

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Frigate

Fashion is amazing.

I admit to being a blue jeans and t-shirt connoiseur myself, but I do pay attention to Fashion Week each  year, and gawk at what celebrities are wearing on award show red carpets. I understand nothing of the inspiration, vision, or sheer artistry behind the creativity of the designers of each new trend. I cannot fathom how an artist goes from making a-line skirts and coats one season, to sheer bandeaus and capris the next.

So while it makes no sense to me, it’s however no surprise that the gravity-defying pompadours and wider-than-doorway panniers of the late 18th Century gave rise to simple and straight empire gowns and natural hair – fashion evolves in mysterious and myriad ways. Since the styles of mothers from the era of George III dressed vastly different from their Regency-reared daughters, I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast two styles. And since caricatures and fashion plates are vastly more entertaining than mere portraits ….

Frigate (noun)

A well-dressed wench; a well rigged-frigate.

Fashion Plate #43 in Galerie des Modes for 1778. Caption reads "Jeune Dame de Qualité en grande Robe coëffée avec un Bonnet ou Pouf élégant dit la Victoire Dessiné par Desrai." Translated means Young Lady in high quality cofeée dress with a hat or stylish pouf designed by Desrai.

Fashion Plate #43 in Galerie des Modes for 1778. Caption reads “Jeune Dame de Qualité en grande Robe coëffée avec un Bonnet ou Pouf élégant dit la Victoire Dessiné par Desrai.” Translated means Young Lady in high quality cofeée dress with a hat or stylish pouf designed by Desrai.

Mlle Des Victoire coiffure à la Grenade, 1779 (Miss Victory Hair Style à la Grenada). French propaganda print satirizing the big hair.

Mlle Des Victoire coiffure à la Grenade, 1779 (Miss Victory Hair Style à la Grenada). French propaganda print satirizing the big hair.

Launching a Frigate, 1790s, James Gillray

Launching a Frigate, 1790s, James Gillray

The Finishing Touch, James Gillray

The Finishing Touch, James Gillray

Tight Lacing, or Fashion before Ease, by Bowles and Carver after John Collet, London, ca. 1770–1775. From the collections of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Tight Lacing, or Fashion before Ease, by Bowles and Carver after John Collet, London, ca. 1770–1775. From the collections of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

The Fashions of the Day -or- Time Past and Present. Respectfully dedicated to the Fashionable Editors of La Belle Assemblé Le Beau Monde &c., &c. 1807, Charles Williams.

The Fashions of the Day -or- Time Past and Present. Respectfully dedicated to the Fashionable Editors of La Belle Assemblé Le Beau Monde &c., &c. 1807, Charles Williams.

Parisian Ladies in their Winter Dress for 1800, Isaac Cruikshank, 1799

Parisian Ladies in their Winter Dress for 1800, Isaac Cruikshank, 1799

The Rage or Shepherds I have lost My Waist, 1790s, Isaac Cruikshank

The Rage or Shepherds I have lost My Waist, 1790s, Isaac Cruikshank

High-change in Bond Street -ou- la Politesse du Grande Monde, James Gillray, 1796

High-change in Bond Street -ou- la Politesse du Grande Monde, James Gillray, 1796

Fashion Plate: A Lady of Hindoostan, 1809, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Fashion Plate: A Lady of Hindoostan, 1809, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Canting

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Canting

Canting (verb)

Preaching with a whining, affected tone. Perhaps a corruption of chaunting. Some derive it from Andrew Cant, a famous Scotch preacher, who used that whining manner of expression. Also a kind of gibberish used by thieves and gypsies, called likewise pedlar’s [sic] French, the slang, etc., etc.

William Markham ("The church militant"), James Gillray, 1779.

William Markham (“The church militant”), James Gillray, 1779.

There’s a post crying out to be written that investigates Mr. Andrew Cant but, alas, that post waits to live another week. Instead, I’ve grabbed a few caricatures of “canting clerics” from Rowlandson, Gillray, and Cruikshank.

Caricature of Edward Irving Preaching by (Isaac) Robert Cruikshank, 1824

Caricature of Edward Irving Preaching by (Isaac) Robert Cruikshank, 1824

Syntax Preaching, Thomas Rowlandson, 1813, British Library

Syntax Preaching, Thomas Rowlandson, 1813, British Library

The Vicar of Wakefield - The Vicar Preaching to the Prisoners, Thomas Rowlandson, 1817

The Vicar of Wakefield – The Vicar Preaching to the Prisoners, Thomas Rowlandson, 1817

 

Slang term taken from 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Why this book isn’t on everyone’s coffee table …