WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cold Pudding

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cold Pudding

Hello, February.

The second month of the year in our Gregorian calendar, the only month with less than thirty days, and the only month whose name means both ‘Day of Purification’ (dies februatus, in Latin) and ‘Mud Month’ (Solmonath, in Old English). February’s flower is the violet and its birthstone the amethyst, the symbol of piety, humility, spiritual wisdom, and sincerity. It’s also the month crammed full with such random holidays as National Freedom Day (1st), checking groundhogs for shadows (2nd), eating/drinking/merrying for Mardi Gras (13th), Chinese New Year (17th, et. al.), commemorating the birthdays of two Presidents (19th), and Rare Disease Day (28th). According to Holidays Calendar, there are over 160 things you can observe, celebrate, or just ponder during the month of February.

How on earth did February come to hold the responsibility for all things love? And since Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day this year, will anyone give up chocolate for Lent? Especially since my favorite day in February is the 15th, when Valentine’s candy goes 75% off at Target.

Thou hast no shame in the discount candy game.

It’s interesting to me that the shortest month of the year commemorates the very emotion that is supposed to encompass people wholly, truly, and 4-ever. Valentine’s Day falls smack in the middle of this month of amour – the same day every year – and yet stores are still overrun at 5:00pm that day with males desperate to find something their loves will find worthy.

The Pearl Necklace by Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), Art Renewal Center, New Jersey.

Might I suggest the word of the week?

Cold Pudding

This is said to settle one’s love.

Perhaps a little poetry wouldn’t go amiss. And chocolate. Must have all the chocolate.

The Lovers’ Tryst by Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), Bonhams Gallery, London.

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Piss Pot Hall

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Piss Pot Hall

To round out a month of what has surely been the vulgarist of vulgar topic themes, this week takes us to the highest of the lows.

In which we learn of the house that chamber pots built,courtesy the head of a lofty windbag.

Piss Pot Hall

A house at Clapton, near Hackney, built by a potter chiefly out of the profits of chamber pots, in the bottom of which the portrait of Dr. Sacheverel (sic) was depicted.

Honestly, when history is this crass yet entertaining, I don’t even mind if it’s anecdotal in part or total.

The story goes that in 1709, the very Tory, very Reverend, Doctor Henry Sacheverell took it upon himself to preach a series of sermons, The Perils of False Brethren, in which he accused Whigs of being entirely too tolerant of religious dissenters. While the Whigs were in power and no less than the Lord Mayor had forbade him speak it, mind you.

Frontispiece for The Perils of False Brethren.

To understand the vehemence of his position, one need only remember the English Civil War and subsequent Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell was barely a generation past. So bitterly did the Loyalists despise the ‘king killer’ Cromwell that they took to calling their chamber pots Oliver’s Skulls. He was, after all, a Roundhead, so the moniker was both apropos to the shape of the vessel, and insult to Old Ironsides.  Three years after Cromwell’s death, in 1661, the poor chap’s body was dug up so that he could be hanged, tossed into a pit, then beheaded.

Some ingenious entrepreneur should have secured the head so that a privy tour could have be taken with the real, literal Oliver’s Skull but, alas, the head was lost (as beheaded head’s of state heads often are?).

<insert Oliver’s Skull jokes here>

Anyway, fast forward a few decades and tensions are still fraught between Loyalists/Tories and Roundhead/Whigs. Enter Dr. Sacheverell, he of St. Saviour’s in Southwark and the fiery sermons, and we have a new person to commemorate in member mug fashion. Dr. Sacheverell insults the Whigs, and a Whig potter promptly manufactures chamber pots featuring a likeness of the preacher in the bottom.

You may fire when ready, boys.

So many ‘preacher pots’ were sold that the enterprising potter allegedly made a fortune, enough to build himself a mansion at Clapton, near Hackney, which became fittingly known as ‘Piss Pot Hall.’

I feel like it took forever to make it to the meat of the Word of the Week.

It irks me no end that none of the pots with the good doctor’s head inside exist.

Could this Chamber Pot Fragment be one of the famous Sacheverell Pots? England, 1710-1730, via Chipstone.

It also irks me that I can’t completely verify the house that urine built. It was definitely located somewhere on the map below, if it did, in fact, exist.

High Street, et. al, Clapton, ca 1830.

It’s also rumored to be known now as the British Home for Deaf and Dumb Women, 26 Clapton Common, London.

Piss Pot Hall? British Home for Deaf and Dumb Women, 26 Clapton Common, London, then.

Piss Pot Hall? British Home for Deaf and Dumb Women, 26 Clapton Common, London, now.

But there is more to the story.

Dr. Sacheverell was brought up on impeachment charges of seditious libel in 1710. He was found guilty of said charges.

Transcript for the Tryal of Dr Henry Sacheverell Before the House of Peers for High Crimes and Misdemeanours, 1710, Parliamentary Archives, LGC/9/2/1.

And like most impeached men, his punishment was sufficiently lenient so that he claimed total victory, as the Tories would by the end of the year, riding high on his oratorical coattails. While Dr. Sacheverell was forbidden to preach for three years, his many supporters took up the cause in his stead. The Rector of Whitechapel even commissioned an altarpiece – that work of art that hangs behind a church’s altar – in which Judas Iscariot bore a remarkable resemblance to one of the good doctor’s most vitriolic critics, the Dean of Peterborough.

One man’s chamber pot is another man’s high church masterpiece.

Lastly, because Dr. Sacheverell was a pontificator extraordinaire, he received his very own slang term. A Sacheverell was the iron door, or blower, to the mouth of a stove: from a divine of that name, who made himself famous for blowing the coals of dissension in the latter end of the reign of Queen Anne.

How can someone not love history?

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jockum Gage

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jockum Gage

So last week we looked at examples of pretty potties. Beautiful, even. So dainty that I imagine more than a few chamber pots have been passed down through the generations until their former use was forgotten, having been replaced by new-fangled indoor plumbing, so the potties just became pots. To display in china cabinets. Or for use as soup tureens or casserole dishes.

Or is that just in my family?

Jockum Gage

A chamber-pot, jordan, looking-glass, or member-mug. CANT.

National Conveniences by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, 1796, British Museum.

The romance novelist in me wishes beautiful, somehow always-pristine potties. were placed underneath beds or in designated closets, their use understood but unseen. Alas, the historian in me pokes around books and the interwebs and knows that not to be so. One of my favorite, laugh-out-loud lines comes from Vicky Dreiling’s novel What a Wicked Earl Wants. Said wicked Earl is appalled his friends think to drink, smoke, and urinate simultaneously, as if a jockum gage came after the fifth course in his dining room: “I do not piss where I eat,” Bellingham scolds.

Unfortunately, most did.

Après le dîner, the women separated from the men, moving to a fresh room for conversation, cards, or music. The gentlemen remained at the dining table for port, tobacco, and boast-filled chinwags. After all that wine with dinner, and with the anticipation of more alcohol to come, it was also time to pull out the handy pot in the corner.

It was possible to disguise the location of a jockum gage when located in a public room, such as the dining area, salon, or even study. Commodes were large pieces of furniture basically built around a small chamber pot for the purposes of tasteful concealment. Thieves’ cant used the word ‘commode’ to mean a women’s headdress, because who knew what that giant bonnet or head-swathing turban concealed. Likewise, who knew that innocent-looking bureau in the corner contained a remedy critch?

Antique George III commode with moulded top over four figured dummy drawers and brass swan neck handles, circa 1970, auctioned by Thakeham Furniture Company.

Some wealthy homes did have primitive versions of toilets, in a separate room and with flushing water. History and Soon relates that even wealthier families had portable flushing toilets. How posh! The portable privies were called ‘thunderboxes.’ How decidedly un-posh. 19th century potty humor.

Flush Thunderbox from Brodsworth Hall, Yorkshire.

However, the technology to flush smells was not around yet, so the area might be private, but the odors were not. According to Uncommon Courtesy, later versions of privies, called “earth closets,” used a fine dirt to help improve air quality. That name sounded much more wholesome and organic than ‘wooden seat atop dirt-filled bucket.’ And those lucky maids found it their job to ladle peat over the waste to promote decomposition and help with the smell.

Earth Closet

Bird’s eye view of the Earth Closet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern, better-smelling waste disposal was still in its infancy, but it was moving in the right direction. That is to say, out of the house via a sealed containment system.

Next week, how to go when you were on the go.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waits

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waits

T-minus one week to Christmas! Shall we go a-caroling?

Waits

Musicians of the lower order, who in most towns play under the windows of the chief inhabitants at midnight, a short time before Christmas, for which they collect a christmas-box from house to house. They are said to derive their name of waits from being always in waiting to celebrate weddings and other joyous events happening within their district.

Christmas-Carols by Henry Heath, 1835, The Lewis Walpole Library.

In my search to find out what Regency celebrants would sing – or have sung to them – while performing as waits at Christmas, I discovered a wonderful recording of two songs: The Gloucester Wassail and The Holly and the Ivy. While there are many more familiar Christmas songs to choose from during the Regency era (such as Greensleeves or Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella), I’ll leave those for other pens to illuminate. I’ve included links to other articles on those very songs, and others, but will focus my attention on the two mentioned above.

During the Georgian era, people would go from house to house singing the wassail song and carrying a wassail bowl, both of which were originally called waysail. Some carolers might use the bowl to hold actual drink or collect money, but most used it as a decoration, adorning their bowl with ribbons, berries, and greenery. This custom of “waysailing” was first noted in publication in the Times Telescope in 1813 Gloucestershire; however, the song is believed to date from as early as the middle ages. Nearly every village added their own lyrics to the song or tailored their customs to fit their burgh, but the general practices were the same, and remained relatively unchanged until the mid-20th century. The most popular version of the song remains as follows:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our horse, and to his right ear,
God send our master a happy new year:
A happy new year as e’er he did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e’er I did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e’er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our cow, and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer: I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear.

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all.

Be here any maids? I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone!
Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

The second song I’m profiling is familiar around the world to this day – The Holly and The Ivy. Holly and ivy have been the go-to decorations for British churches at Advent and Christmas since the 15th century, so it’s only natural a song would arise celebrating these beloved plants. Holly is often called Christ’s Thorn, while the ivy is said to symbolize Mary and her loving support of her divine Son. The words of this carol were first published in anonymous broadsides in Birmingham in the early 19th century, with William Hone first to document the title of the song in his 1823 publication, Ancient Mysteries Discovered. He dated the origin of the lyrics to the mid-17th century.

Ancient Mysteries Described by William Hone, 1823.

Various early 19th century sources do not provide music to accompany the lyrics, though by 1868 carolers are directed to sing The Holly and The Ivy to the tune of an unspecified “old French carol.” That’s not terribly helpful to the modern singer. The music we hear accompanying the lyrics today is immediately familiar to the listener’s ears, at a bare minimum, as a Christmas-y tune.

First verse from anonymous broadside of The Holly & Ivy, published by H. Wadsworth, Birmingham, 1814-1818.

For your delectation, I present The Gloucester Wassail sung by the Waverly Consort, and The Holly and the Ivy sung by The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

And for those of a more modern nature, may I present English rock band Blur’s version of The Wassailing Song, presented and arranged by Gold, Frankincense, and Blur. So cool.

Let’s all go a-wassailing!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Comfort

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Comfort

Every cloud has its silver lining.
It is what it is.
Call it even and go home.
Six of one, half dozen of another.
But did you die?

There are quite a few ways to simply say “it could have been worse.” Last week the term was Dutch Feast, meaning the host went into a drunken stupor before his guests. This week, I found another term with Dutch in its name. I need to take a stroll down a rabbit trail or three and find out why the Dutch were a favorite slang adjective.

But it’s nigh on December and that means writing, parties, concerts, plays, shopping, and myriad other deadlines are nipping at my heels, so deep diving into Google is not on the agenda. I think I’ll just claim this week’s word for the whole month.

Very Slippy-Weather by James Gillray, 10 February 1808, The Trustees of the British Museum.

Dutch Comfort

Thank God it is no worse.

Miseries of Travelling by Thomas Rowlandson, 1807, Victoria and Albert Museum.

The inscription reads:

Just as you are going off with only one other person on your side of the coach, who you flatter yourself is the last- seeing the door suddenly opened and the L and lady coachman guard [illegible] craning shoving buttressing up an overgrown puffing, greazy human Hog of the bucher or grazier breed. The whole machine straining and groaning under its cargo from the box to the basket- by dint of incredible efforts and contrivances the Carcase is at length weighed up to the door where it has next to struggle with various obstructions in the passage.

Is there any Dutch Comfort to be taken in the ability to travel by coach rather than foot? Even if another adult sits in your lap the entire journey?

Matrimonial-Harmonics by James Gillray, 25 October 1805, The Trustees of the British Museum.

From the British Museum description:

The couple torment each other in the breakfast-room. A round table is drawn close to a blazing fire. The lady has left her seat to thump on the piano, singing loudly, with her back to her husband, but turning her eyes towards him. He sits in the corner of a sofa, crouching away from her, his hand over his ear, food stuffed into his mouth, reading the Sporting Calendar. The pages of her open music-book are headed Forte. Her song is: ‘Torture Fiery Rage \ Despair I cannot can not bear’. On the piano lies music: Separation a Finale for Two Voices with Accompaniment; on the floor is The Wedding Ring – a Dirge. She wears a becoming morning gown with cap, but has lost the slim grace of early matrimony and her soft features have coarsened. Behind the piano a boisterous coarse-featured nurse hastens into the room holding a squalling infant, and flourishing a (watchman’s) rattle. On the lady’s chair is an open book, The Art of Tormenting, illustrated by a cat playing with a mouse. Her sunshade hangs from the back of the chair. On the breakfast-table are a large hissing urn, a tea-pot, a coffee-pot, &c., a bottle of ‘Hollands’ (beside the woman’s place), and a full dish of muffins. The man’s coffee-cup is full and steaming. He wears a dressing-gown with ungartered stockings and slippers. An air of dejection and ill-nature replaces his former good-humoured sprightliness. Under his feet lies a dog, ‘Benedick’, barking fiercely at an angry cat, poised on the back of the sofa. A square birdcage high on the wall is supported by branching antlers. In it two cockatoos screech angrily at each other, neglecting a nest of three young ones. Beside it on the left is a bust of ‘Hymen’ with a broken nose, and on the right a thermometer which has sunk almost to ‘Freezing’. On the chimney-piece is a carved ornament: Cupid asleep under a weeping willow, his torch reversed, the arrows falling from his quiver. This is flanked by vases whose handles are twisted snakes which spit at each other.

Is there any Dutch Comfort to be taken in the fact that the single life is firmly behind them, that they will never be alone – or left alone – again? Or in the fact that each can have only one spouse to torment? And that there is only one squalling infant?

At least the dreaded mother-in-law is not also in residence.

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Feast

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Feast

It’s Thanksgiving week in the United States. I talked a little bit about my historical ties to Thanksgiving in a previous year’s post, specifically my two relatives on board the Mayflower, one of whom happened to be John Howland, the man who fell overboard. When you’re clutzy in my family, you’ve pulled a Howland. We’re that kind of people.

Anyway, this year I thought to address the funnier side of the holiday, and really anytime family and friends gather together – that one relative who gets drunk.

In my family, we have an uncle who can be counted on to be “happier” by the time all the relatives gather together to break bread. Honestly, he’s a thousand times more entertaining and interesting than the usual exchange of gossip, comparison of family achievements, and inevitable jealousy over who cooked what better. I always put my seat next to this dear man, who can be counted on to keep up fascinating conversation and hilarious football commentary once the Cowboys game begins. He’s a harmless, erudite tippler. It also doesn’t hurt that he always declares me his favorite niece.

Most of the time at any social gathering, it’s one of the guests who imbibes too much. When it’s the host, well, there’s a vulgar slang term for that. And lovely historical illustrations that fit the theme in looks, if not titles.

Inconveniences of a Crowded Drawing Room by George Cruikshank, 6 May 1818, public domain.

Dutch Feast

Where the entertainer gets drunk before his guest.

Monstrous Craws at a New Coalition Feast by James Gillray, 29 May 1787, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

But once the event is over, and the devilry and revelry are past, there’s the devil to pay…

The Head-Ache by George Cruikshank, 12 February 1819, public domain.

Happiest Thanksgiving feasting! And go Cowboys!

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hum Trum

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hum Trum

Regency era London was a noisy place to be. Streets were congested with all manner of traffic, from private carriages to hackneys to freight wagons. Pavements on the sides of streets were just as clogged, with all manner of hawkers and their carts, writhing seas of pedestrians, and just gawpers in general. The racket raised by the sheer number of people and machinery was enormous. Add to that the criminal element of pick-pockets scurrying about, and the streets were a mishmash of business, leisure, and delinquency. So what else added to the noise pollution of the time?

Street Musicians.

According to Jane Austen’s World, musicians “roamed the land, and London streets offered a pandemonium of sound, much of it derived from musical instruments.” Street musicians were known as buskers, and they were equally loved (or at least tolerated) and loathed. And while many buskers had real instruments, such as violins and barrel organs, others made music from devices cobbled-together from whatever implements could be collected from people’s cast-offs.

Hum Trum

A musical instrument made of a mopstick, a bladder, and some packthread, thence also called a bladder and string, and hurdy gurdy; it is played on like a violin, which is sometimes ludicrously called a humstrum; sometimes, instead of a bladder, a tin canister is used.

The Enraged Musician by William Hogarth, 1741, British Museum.

Street musicians would play popular folk songs and ballads, some classics of storytelling and some downright bawdy numbers. Jane Austen herself copied many such “common” songs in her handwritten collection of sheet music. She especially enjoyed tunes by composer Charles Dibdin. His prolific compositions ranged from serious and patriotic, to ditties and sea shanties. The latter of such songs were the main pieces played upon the hum trum. One of Dibdin’s most famous songs is Tom Bowling. I can only find today what my Granny would have called “highfalutin” versions of this song about an everyman, but it’s an excellent example of the type of folk song that would have been played by street buskers in hopes of earning a penny or three.

Here, a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling, the darling of our crew;
No more he’ll hear the tempest howling,
For death has broached him to.
His form was of the manliest beauty; his heart was kind and soft
Faithful below, Tom did his duty, and now, he’s gone aloft.

Tom never from his word departed; his virtues were so rare
His friends were many and true-hearted; his Poll was true and fair.
And then he’d sing so blithe and jolly, ah!
Many’s the time and oft.
But mirth is turned to melancholy, for Tom is gone aloft.

Yet shall poor Tom find pleasant weather, when He, who all commands,
Shall give, to call Life’s crew together, the word to pipe all hands.
Thus Death, who kings and tars despatches,
In vain Tom’s life hath doffed,
For though his body’s under hatches, his soul is gone aloft.

The television show Harlots has some of the best representations of folk songs I’ve heard of late, amongst its likewise faithful (I swear I can almost smell the scenes in this show) depictions of sex trade and fine society in the midst of politics and economics in Georgian England. In Episode Four, the younger daughter of brothel owner Margaret Wells sang a song during the masquerade party Pandemonium, thrown to earn enough blunt to pay off the debt of moving on up, to Greek Street rather than the East Side. Lucy sang the 18th century ballad My Thing is My Own.

I, a tender young maid, have been courted by many
Of all sorts and trades as ever was any.
A spruce haberdasher first spake to me fair
But I would have nothing to do with small ware.

My thing is my own, and I’ll keep it so still
Yet other young lasses may do as they will.

A sweet scented courtier did give me a kiss,
And promis’d me mountains if I would be his,
But I’ll not believe him, for it is too true,
Some courtiers do promise much more than they do.

A fine Man of Law did come out of the Strand,
To plead his own case with his fee in his hand;
He made a brave motion but that would not do,
For I did dismiss him and nonsuit him too.

Next came a young fellow, a notable spark,
(With green bag and inkhorn, a Justice’s clerk)
He pull’d out his warrant to make all appear,
But I sent him away with a flea in his ear.

A Master of Musick came with an intent,
To give me a lesson on my instrument,
I thank’d him for no’hing, but bid him be gone,
For my little fiddle should not be plaid on.

An Usurer came with abundance of cash,
But I had no mind to come under his lash,
He profer’d me jewels, and great store of gold,
But I would not mortgage my little Free-hold.

A blunt Lieutenant surpriz’d my placket,
And fiercely began to rifle and sack it,
I mustered my spirits up and became bold,
And forc’d my Lieutenant to quit his strong hold.

A crafty young bumpkin that was very rich,
And us’d with his bargains to go thro’ stitch,
Did tender a sum, but it would not avail,
That I should admit him my tenant in tayl.

A fine dapper taylor, with a yard in his hand
Did profer his service to be at command
He talk’d of a slit I had above knee,
But I’ll have no taylors to stitch it for me.

A Gentleman that did talk much of his grounds
His Horses, his Setting-Dogs, and his greyhounds
Put in for a Course, and us’d all his art
But he mist of the Sport, for Puss would not start

A pretty young Squire new come to the town
To empty his Pockets, and so to go down,
Did profer a kindness, but I would have none
The same that he us’d to his mother’s maid, Joan.

Now here I could reckon a hundred and more
Besides all the Gamesters recited before
That made their addresses in hopes of a snap
But as young as I was I understood trap.

My thing is my own, and I’ll keep it so still
Until I be marryed, say men what they will.

From Pills to Purge Melancholy, Vol. IV, D’Urfey

Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart have a fine cover of the mournful-yet-vulgar song, but the adaptation by the Sirens is a much earthier and faithful rendition that does justice to the innuendo-laden lyrics. And their harmonies are gorgeous.

Some of the songs from Harlots are original compositions done in the style of Georgian tunes, and they fit both historically and in circumstance. My favorite so far is Mary Cooper, for all that it’s subject is about to die of myriad working girl ailments. As the harlots paraded poor Mary’s corpse through Covent Garden, all they lacked were violins, organs, and a few hum trum. I can’t find a clip of the actual scene, but the lyrics tell the story well. Watch Season 1, Episode 2, to see the feast for the eyes (in both horrid and sumptuous glory) that is Harlots.

Get your hum trums out and play along.

Mary Cooper, Mary Cooper.
She’s had every Lord and Trooper
Kisses scorch, her waps are super.

Mary Cooper, Mary Cooper,
She’s had every Lord and Trooper.
Mary Cooper, Mary Cooper,
Leaves her lovers in a stupor.

Ridin’ high, no man can dupe her-
London’s Venus, Mary Cooper!