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.

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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!

 

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bugaboe

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bugaboe

It’s a busy writing month for me so I’m revisiting and revamping some old posts. I’ve previously written about this week’s word, but I’ve added a bit to this new post. I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy Halloween and all its trappings, with the emphasis on all things hair-raising, not stomach-churning. This week’s word brings to mind the one scary character that, no matter how many times I see the movie, always gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I mean, I can’t even write this post at night because of the gifs below. But stay tuned to the end for a list of haunting period dramas to watch this Halloween! I highly recommend The Innocents, The Awakening, and The Turn of the Screw, if you prefer being frightened rather than nauseated.

Last warning. To me, these movie scenes are terrifying.

Bugaboe

A scare-babe or bully-beggar, 1811; buggybow, 1740. Also thought to be connected with Bugibu, a demon in the Old French poem Aliscans from 1141, which is perhaps itself of Celtic origin (bucca bogle, goblin, and Cornish bucca-boo).

Que viene el Coco (Here Comes the Bogey Man), No. 3 of Caprichos series by Francisco Goya, 1799, Prado Museum.

A google search of the word bugaboo – the 21st century spelling for this week’s word – results in hits ranging from a baby stroller to a mountain range in British Columbia to a song by Destiny’s Child. It also pulls up what the word originally meant, when it was spelled slightly differently – the bogeyman.

halloween mike myers as ghost

The bogeyman for me is epitomized in Michael Myers. Not the former SNL comedian and definitely not the gore-infused Myers of the 21st century remakes, but the original, William Shatner mask-wearing killer of 1978’s Halloween by John Carpenter.

The guy was obsessed with doing anything to get back home to kill his remaining sister; every thing and everyone in his way were doomed. What makes him even creepier is that he always walked – never ran – and remained eerily calm in his pursuit.

I mean, come on! Heebedie-jeebedies!

Heavenly days, that head tilt. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

halloween dr. loomis looking for myers

Dr. Loomis, Michael’s longsuffering psychiatrist – who pleaded with authorities not to release his patient – tried his best to warn and save everyone. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the town of Haddonfield, Illinois thought Michael Myers was more legend than fact, more bogeyman or scare-babe than threat.

halloween jamie lee curtis it was the bogeyman

Yes. Yes, it was.

halloween movie mike myers sitting up behind jamie lee curtis

Aaaandd still is! Don’t sit in the house with a Bugaboe, dead or alive! Go. Now.

Girl, I told you not to sit there.

And that skinny little stick is not going to stop a Bugaboe.

halloween you can't kill the bogeyman

Truer words have n’er been spoken.

Need some spookety period dramas this All Hallow’s Eve? Have no fear – Willow and Thatch have you covered.

15 Haunting Period Dramas for Halloween

20 Chilling Period Dramas for Halloween

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hobgoblin

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hobgoblin

So we expect stories of ghosts, ghoulies, skeletons, monsters, and even vampyres during the Regency. Anything else?

Glad you asked.

Hobgoblin (noun)

An elf or fairy; a little man or woman. Also a mischievous sprite that causes fear or disquiet, 1709. From Hobbe “hob” elf and a variant of Robin Goodfellow, an elf character in German folklore, and goblin, 1520s.

Winter or The Goblin Story, after Hamilton, 1795, British Museum.

 

Ghost stories are so much fun!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bow-Wow

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bow-Wow

I love doggies. All shapes, sizes, and breeds. No wonder I’ve developed an affinity for the Regency era. Simply Google “Regency era dogs” and your screen will be inundated with pages of images (just a paltry 525,000 results). My fondness for dogs naturally lent itself to a fondness for Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park, my least favorite Austen novel.

To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children… Mansfield Park, Chapter 2

Portrait of Sylvie de la Rue by Francois van der Donckt, 1810, Groeninge Museum, Bruges.

She is a simple woman of a fairly simple mind, but doggedly (sorry, not sorry) devoted to her precious Pug. Not counting Edward and his ambiguous feelings, surely no one paid Fanny so great a compliment as Lady Bertram:

And still pursuing the same cheerful thoughts, she soon afterwards added, “And I will tell you what, Fanny, which is more than I did for Maria: the next time Pug has a litter you shall have a puppy.” Mansfield Park, Chapter 33

Bow-Wow

The childish name for a dog.

The Misses de Balleroy by Henri-Francois Riesener, between 1805-1815, Columbia Museum of Art.

Regency England was mad for dogs. Regency ladies, especially, kept their tiny little canine companions close, if the sheer number of portraits of ladies and their dogs is any indication. I know dog fighting was also a popular “entertainment” of the time, but I shall “let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” I shall dwell on a small selection of doggies, great and small.

Frederica, Duchess of York by Peter Edward Stroehling.

According to the Georgian Index, Regency England’s top dogs were English Bulldogs, Collies, Dalmatians, Great Danes, English Foxhounds, Greyhounds, English Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, English Pointers, Pomeranians, Poodles, Pugs, Curly Coated Retrievers, Spaniels, and Terriers.

Jane Fleming, Countess of Harrington by Peter Edward Stroehling, year unknown, Thirlestane Castle.

Jane Austen’s World has a thorough and sometimes difficult-to-read post about Georgian Era dogs, illuminating the wide variety of roles occupied by canines: from faithful companion to hunting champion to paid entertainer to abandoned garbage-scavenger in the slums. I won’t retype her findings here, but it is a must-read for the curious.

Le Bon Genre, No. 35. Le Chiens a la Mode.

Dogs even made their mark in the fashion world.

Observoateur des Modes, No. 454, Bureau, rue Feydeau, No. 20. Modes Parisienne.

Winter Carriage Dress, La Belle Assemblée, 1818.

I’ll close with a few more favorites discovered in my massive Google search.

The Rev. and Mrs. Thomas Gisborne of Leicestershire, 1786, by Joseph Wright of Derby.

Good Companions by Vittorio Reggianini, private collection.

The Pet by Vittorio Reggianini.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jaw-Me-Dead

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jaw-Me-Dead

Several weeks ago, a Word of the Week featured the quotes of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. I received this hilarious Twitter shout-out from Dolores of Course:

Anytime a person is impelled to Jane Austen, it’s a good thing. My goal this week is to invoke the urge toward Sense and Sensibility; specifically, Mrs. Charlotte Palmer, and her incessant chatter, and her husband’s priceless reactions to it.

And really, does one need an excuse to watch a period version of Dr. House?

Jaw-Me-Dead

A jaw-me-dead is a talkative fellow; jaw being speech, discourse.

Mrs. Charlotte Palmer is a giggly, silly, chatterbox…but also essentially a nice person. Just like her mother, Mrs. Jennings, she loves gossip – and sharing it as soon as possible with all her friends. Mr. Palmer, on the surface, is a dour sourpuss whose only conversation seems to be one-liners delivered in passive aggressive rebuttal of his wife’s pronouncements. He’s quiet where she is exuberant. When the action moves to his home, we see he is really serious and concerned about the health of his guest (Marianne) and his family, and that his acerbity is more posture than truth.

Mr. Palmer’s role as straight man to his wife’s Jaw-Me-Dead is pure entertainment.

Mrs. Palmer was several years younger than Lady Middleton, and totally unlike her in every respect. She was short and plump, had a very pretty face, and the finest expression of good humour in it that could possibly be. Her manners were by no means so elegant as her sister’s, but they were much more prepossessing. She came in with a smile, smiled all the time of her visit, except when she laughed, and smiled when she went away. Her husband was a grave looking young man of five or six and twenty, with an air of more fashion and sense than his wife, but of less willingness to please or be pleased. He entered the room with a look of self-consequence, slightly bowed to the ladies, without speaking a word, and, after briefly surveying them and their apartments, took up a newspaper from the table, and continued to read it as long as he staid.

Mrs. Palmer, on the contrary, who was strongly endowed by nature with a turn for being uniformly civil and happy, was hardly seated before her admiration of the parlour and every thing in it burst forth.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19

Only look, sister, how delightful every thing is! How I should like such a house for myself! Should not you, Mr. Palmer?”

Mr. Palmer made her no answer, and did not even raise his eyes from the newspaper.

“Mr. Palmer does not hear me,” said she, laughing; “he never does sometimes. It is so ridiculous!”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19

“But indeed you must and shall come. I am sure you will like it of all things. The Westons will be with us, and it will be quite delightful. You cannot think what a sweet place Cleveland is; and we are so gay now, for Mr. Palmer is always going about the country canvassing against the election; and so many people came to dine with us that I never saw before, it is quite charming! But, poor fellow! it is very fatiguing to him! for he is forced to make every body like him.”

Elinor could hardly keep her countenance as she assented to the hardship of such an obligation.

“How charming it will be,” said Charlotte, “when he is in Parliament!–won’t it? How I shall laugh! It will be so ridiculous to see all his letters directed to him with an M.P.–But do you know, he says, he will never frank for me? He declares he won’t. Don’t you, Mr. Palmer?”

Mr. Palmer took no notice of her.

“He cannot bear writing, you know,” she continued–“he says it is quite shocking.”

“No,” said he, “I never said any thing so irrational. Don’t palm all your abuses of languages upon me.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 20

“Mr. Palmer will be so happy to see you,” said she; “What do you think he said when he heard of your coming with Mamma? I forget what it was now, but it was something so droll!”

After an hour or two spent in what her mother called comfortable chat, or in other words, in every variety of inquiry concerning all their acquaintance on Mrs. Jennings’s side, and in laughter without cause on Mrs. Palmer’s, it was proposed by the latter that they should all accompany her to some shops where she had business that morning…

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 26

Nothing was wanting on Mrs. Palmer’s side that constant and friendly good humour could do, to make them feel themselves welcome. The openness and heartiness of her manner more than atoned for that want of recollection and elegance which made her often deficient in the forms of politeness; her kindness, recommended by so pretty a face, was engaging; her folly, though evident was not disgusting, because it was not conceited; and Elinor could have forgiven every thing but her laugh.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 42

He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss Dashwood to expect that a very few days would restore her sister to health, yet, by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency, and allowing the word “infection” to pass his lips, gave instant alarm to Mrs. Palmer, on her baby’s account. Mrs. Jennings, who had been inclined from the first to think Marianne’s complaint more serious than Elinor, now looked very grave on Mr. Harris’s report, and confirming Charlotte’s fears and caution, urged the necessity of her immediate removal with her infant; and Mr. Palmer, though treating their apprehensions as idle, found the anxiety and importunity of his wife too great to be withstood. Her departure, therefore, was fixed on; and within an hour after Mr. Harris’s arrival, she set off, with her little boy and his nurse, for the house of a near relation of Mr. Palmer’s, who lived a few miles on the other side of Bath; whither her husband promised, at her earnest entreaty, to join her in a day or two; and whither she was almost equally urgent with her mother to accompany her.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 43

Emma Thompson’s faithful and Oscar-winning adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in 1995 showcases the quirky banter of the Palmers to perfection. How many of us could keep our cool and droll sense of humor in the face of such a steadfast Jaw-Me-Dead as Mrs. Palmer?